Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eyes wide shut on Naxalism

- Cong, BJP manifestos play safe on red fear

SUMAN K SHRIVASTAVA

Ranchi, Nov. 21: Home minister P. Chidambaram has called Jharkhand the epicentre of Maoist terror. But political parties fighting Assembly elections, have chosen to bypass the issue of Naxalism, arguably the gravest concern facing the nation today.

Both the BJP and the Congress, principal rivals in this election, have devoted little space to the problem in their manifestos. While the BJP, hitherto known for its tough stand against terror, has no answer to the challenge posed by Maoists, the Congress’s views are a brief summary of its stated position.

Even former chief minister Babulal Marandi, a personal victim of Maoist terror when he lost his son, Anup, in a rebel attack at Chilkhadi village in Giridih on October 27, 2007, has chosen to deal with the issue diplomatically, talking only of development in the manifesto of his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha that’s fighting the elections as an ally of the Congress.

No one has mentioned Operation Green Hunt, a proposed central offensive against rebels to be conducted in co-ordination with state police, a strategy articulated by none other than Chidambaram.

In its 16-page manifesto, the Congress uses a little more than 100 words to describe its plan of ushering in rural development — to ensure the fruits of progress reached the interiors — but makes no mention of the central offensive.

In a manifesto of 44 pages, the BJP has dismissed the Naxalite issue in 38 words, saying it will initiate a constructive approach to finding a solution to the problem of extremism, but not spelling out what that “initiative” could be. It has spoken of a “social solution” along with “administrative measures” to try and free the state from Naxalites.

The JVM doesn’t mention Naxalism, but in a 28-word paragraph on “peace” has said that insecurity among people could be removed only through development. “We will weed out the reasons for the insecurity,” the manifesto promised.

The JMM, an advocate of “meaningful discussion with the rebels”, has given tickets to half a dozen “reformed” Maoists. Naturally, it’s stand on Maoist terror is nothing but muted.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad has maintained that Naxalism was on the rise due to unemployment and price rise. He has also ridiculed the proposed offensive against Maoists.

“Arey majak hai ka bomb marna? Bomb marna hai to Chin (China) ko kyon nahi mar rahe ho (Is this idea to bomb (rebel hideouts) a joke or what? If you have to bomb, why not China)?” he said at public meeting at Khalari, a Naxalite-hit region under Ranchi district.

Lalu Prasad, however, made no effort to hide where his sympathies lay. He did not campaign on Friday, in view of the Maoist-sponsored Jharkhand bandh in protest against the Assembly elections and the proposed Central offensive.

BJP’s Arjun Munda, a former chief minister, tried his best to provide a credible explanation. “It’s a national issue and a Central law is required to root out the problem,” he said, adding that a detailed policy would be framed after the party came back to power.

Those in the fray, however, said they could not be expected to run a poster war against Maoists like the police during polls. “Aggressive posturing against Naxalites will have a negative impact. The administration cannot provide us security,” said a Congress nominee in Palamau.

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